Group exercise can improve participants' mobility in an outpatient rehabilitation setting: a randomized controlled trial

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To establish the effects of group exercise on mobility and strength.


Randomized controlled trial.


Two public hospital outpatient rehabilitation services.


One hundred and seventy-three people (mean age 74.9 years, SD 10.8) with impaired mobility were randomized and 159 people (92%) completed the trial.


Five-week, twice-weekly ‘circuit-style’ group exercise programme run by a physiotherapist (n = 85) and a no-intervention waiting list control group (n=88).

Main outcome measures

Three aspects of mobility: balance while standing and stepping (Step Test, semi-tandem and tandem stance times); sit-to-stand ability (rate and minimum height) and gait (6-metre and 6-minute walk tests). Lower limb muscle strength (knee flexion and extension).


At retest, exercise participants had improved significantly more than their control counterparts on measures of balance while stepping, sit to stand and gait. Exercise participants averaged 1.6 more steps on the 15-second Step Test (95% confidence interval (Cl) 0.5 to 2.8, P = 0.005), walked an average of 0.12m/s faster (95% Cl 0.05 to 0.2, P = 0.002) and took 2.5 fewer steps in 6 metres (95% Cl −4.2 to −0.8, P = 0.004). Exercise participants also averaged 0.04 more sit-to-stands/second, (95% Cl 0.003 to 0.08, P = 0.037) and walked an average of 30.9 metres further in 6 minutes (95% Cl 9.4 to 52.4, P = 0.005). There were no clinically important or statistically significant between-group differences at retest for the measures of strength (knee extension and flexion), balance while standing or minimal sit-to-stand height.


This short-duration circuit class programme improved mobility, but not strength.

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